The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Gardening in Japan, 1912
Chapter: Chapter1. History

Chinese influence on Japanese gardens

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To China, undoubtedly, Japan owes her first practical lessons in this as well as other arts. In the 6th century, when religion and its attendant cults were brought from the neighbouring continent, the first mentioned gardens were constructed in connection with the early monasteries of Biodo-In at Uji, and Todaiji and Kofukuji at Nara. The Chinese attribute the invention of the art to one Yohan Koan Han, who constructed artificial hills or rockeries one hundred feet high, and conducted running water from a distance of many miles for ornamental purposes. In the time of Shoan Ho of the Son dynasty it is recorded that an artist of the name of Chumen Tonkwan arranged flowering plants and trees in the garden of the reigning Emperor, building immense rockeries about two hundred feet in height. The stones employed on this occasion are said to have been specially selected for their interesting shapes, becoming for the first time of individual importance in the design; whereas, hitherto such material had been employed without selection, merely as an aggregate for irregular rockeries. The period of the Son dynasty would appear to have been distinguished for its large and luxurious gardens, even allowing for considerable historical exaggeration. It is recorded that the capital alone boasted a thousand pleasure grounds of enormous size. The paramount influence of China upon the style of artificial landscape developed in Japan may still be traced in the names of lakes, mountains, and water-falls of the Celestial Empire as represented in numerous designs. Fig. 2 exemplifies a famous lake, with hills, rocks, and water-falls, taken from the scenery of the Middle Kingdom, and applied in a modified manner to the gardens of this country.